Author ORCID Identifier
Year of Publication
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Arts and Sciences
Dr. Janet Stamatel
Hate crime is a social construct that is conceptualized and defined through judgments about the meaning of bias and prejudice, as well as the causal link between motivation and criminal act. While the enforcement of federal statutes has extended the protected grounds of hate crime, significant underreporting issues impede the understanding of the actual scale, scope, and severity of hate crimes. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate what and how incident factors and respondents’ preexisting attitudes and beliefs influence the perceptions of a bias incident and the willingness to report such incidents. Following a three-paper format, this dissertation research explores the overarching research question by integrating a power-relation framework with a social psychological approach and providing empirical evidence to offer insights to tackle the underreporting issue of hate crimes.
This dissertation utilizes a factorial survey experiment with randomized vignette assignments as the primary research method, combining survey and experimental research. Such a design guarantees internal validity by introducing randomization and allows easy operationalization through a survey. Besides, it opens opportunities to investigate more realistic complexity than traditional survey methods. Participants (N=2,635) were recruited through Mechanical Turk and were asked to answer a series of questions after reading a fictional scenario that could be considered a racial hate crime.
Logistic regression models are estimated for paper one, followed by moderation analysis and margins tests, to examine how incident variables and respondents’ attitudes and beliefs affect individuals perceiving and constructing racial hate crimes. Further subgroup analyses are employed for paper two to test whether the respondents’ own racial identities interplay with the incident variables. Paper three applies Generalized Structural Equation Modeling (GSEM) to identify the pathway through racial hate crime perception to reporting, offering a modified model of racial hate crime reporting.
Collectively, the findings from this dissertation offer support for a power-relation framework in hate crime studies, which argues that racial hate crimes should be viewed as a social phenomenon that is not only a manifestation of racial hierarchy in society but also functions as a means to reinforce the racial orders to maintain the power relations in society. The findings further lead to three conclusions regarding racial hate crime perception and reporting. The first conclusion is that racial hate crimes should be viewed as both a product and a tool to reinforce the imbalanced power relations in society. The second conclusion from my research is that individuals’ pre-existing attitudes and beliefs, as a reflection of the social structure, are crucial in forming racial hate crime perceptions and reporting decisions, as well as maintaining and challenging power relations. The third conclusion is that the relationship between incident characteristics, pre-existing attitude and belief, and reporting behaviors are not linear. Instead, racial hate crime reporting should be studied as a mediator driving the actual response to a potential racial hate crime.
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This project was supported by Award No.2020-R2-CX-0044 in 2021, awarded by the National Institute of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this dissertation are those of mine and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.
Zhang, Chenghui, "SOCIAL CONSTRUCTION OF HATE CRIMES IN THE US: A FACTORIAL SURVEY EXPERIMENT" (2022). Theses and Dissertations--Sociology. 49.
Available for download on Friday, May 24, 2024